Updated: Sep 3, 2019
NPR posted an article this morning about the work the District of Columbia is doing with respect to restorative justice, an alternative to traditional sentencing that brings offenders into close contact with their victims in an effort to gain them understanding about how their crimes affected their targets.
I absolutely LOVE this idea, and kudos to the DA's Office there for getting the concept implemented. When I worked in indigent defense, one thing I noticed consistently was that there weren't really any evil people committing crimes; just people who grew up in conditions I could never fathom, and kids who had never formed any sense of empathy through no fault of their own.
This form of alternative justice creates a framework of fostering that empathy and connection with a victim that these offenders would otherwise never have in the prison or probation systems. It provides a needed context to their crimes and, as the article notes, connection with their victims in more ways than one. One victim actually gave fatherly advice to his offender, a young man who had just fathered a child of his own.
This is what we need to be doing more of in the criminal justice system. Ditching the fantastical idea that Crime = Evil and recognizing that these are human beings just like us, and they are capable of change just like us. They just need to be made to feel like us.
Article and photo from National Public Radio, 7/2/2019.